Woman’s Death Unnoticed for Years Thanks to Auto-Pay

An inspector who visited a home that had been foreclosed after the owner failed to respond to late mortgage payment notices made a ghastly discovery inside the garage.

A story that really made the rounds this week came out of Pontiac, Michigan, where the body of a woman who’d been dead, police think, for at least five years, was discovered on the back seat of her car.

Yes, you read that correctly: they think she’d been dead for at least five years. Possibly six years.

It turns out that this was a woman who, as neighors put it, “kept to herself.” She was of German descent, they say, and she spent a good deal of time away from home, presumably in Germany. One neighbor told CNN it wasn’t unusual for her to come home for a short time, then go away for a week, then return, then leave again for a month or more.

Being reclusive and being prone to long trips didn’t exactly make her someone neighbors actually looked for.

Two obvious questions would likely come to mind by now:

  1. 1. What about her mail stacking up?
  2. 2. What about her bills?

The mail was being held by the post office, presumably because of one of her frequent trips, so there was no overflowing mailbox out front to raise suspicion. One wonders why five to six years’ worth of mail stacking up at the post office didn’t raise a red flag, but that has yet to be explained.

Her bills become the crux of the story. That’s because it was her financial arrangements that not only helped keep her death unnoticed for so long, but also became the precise reason her body was found at all.

She set up auto-pay for her accounts. Month after month, year after year, her bills were being paid, automatically, on time.

No missed payments, no red flags, no problems.

At least, until the money in her account finally ran out. Then she had a problem.

The bank sent repeated warnings about her missing mortgage payments which, naturally enough, went unanswered. The bank then followed its normal procedure and foreclosed on her house.

It wasn’t until they finally sent someone around to inspect the home that someone actually set foot inside the woman’s garage, spotted her car and the unimaginable sight inside.

It’s difficult to fathom, in this age of social media, in which we seem to be more connected than is even comfortable at times, that we can somehow be so unconnected with the people who literally live right next door.

After all, sites like Facebook help us keep in touch with people we haven’t seen in person in decades, apparently at the expense of people we could help just a few dozen steps from our own home.

The real kicker to this story is the woman’s age.

If she were still alive today, she’d have only been 49 years old.

This wasn’t some elderly hermit. She died in her early 40s, based on estimates. Even someone who’s reclusive shouldn’t go totally unnoticed for years at that age.

It’s entirely possible that this could have been some sort of suicide. It’s particularly odd, I think, that she was sitting alone in the back seat of the car. The early stages of the investigation have not, as of press time, revealed any foul play and her home showed no signs of having been disturbed, another reason why her fate went unnoticed for so long.

But if you’re like me, you’re reminded that once in a while, it might not be a bad idea to reach out to those people in our lives who we go long periods of time without hearing from.

Just in case.


  1. This kind of story breaks my heart. It serves to confirm one of my worst fears: Will anyone notice if/when I’m gone? A question one often asks quietly when in the throes of depression. Lucky for me, I have lots of family & friends who would, in fact, look for me before even a couple days had passed. But I know that’s not the case for everyone. OBVIOUSLY. And it makes me so sad.

  2. Since I am retired and live alone I worry about that all the time. I only talk to my brother on Sundays and during the week I attend meetings and volunteer work but I don’t know if they would think anything of it if I missed a couple of meetings. I know someone who lived alone and when he didn’t show up at work for two days they started to worry and called the police to do a “wellness” check. They found him at the bottom of the stairs in a coma and from the way he was dressed they figured it happened when he came home for work on Friday. There he lay until the police found him on Tuesday.

    I use something called “” it is supposed to be used to send files to people after your death but I use it to send an email to my brother after two days to check on me. one time during a snow storm I lost power for several days and it sent out a notice to my brother (he knew I was OK because I talked to him on my cell phone).

  3. This reminds me of the case of Joyce Vincent, a 38-year-old Londoner who died in her flat, on her couch with the TV on, and wasn’t found until 3 years later when her place was being repossessed for her being late on rent. Here’s a piece about it:

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.